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Oh, The Places I've Gone and the People I've Met. Interesting People in the World of Me.
The old Hank Snow song "I've Been Everywhere" tells of the travels of the singer. He's been everywhere, and seen everything imaginable. While I don't claim to have done this, or been there, I have still been a lot of places and met a lot of people, and a number of them were famous. Just for fun I'm going to list some of them here along with some of the story about the situation. My wife says I've got a story about everything, and sometimes it seems as if I do. She sings a song about me, a takeoff of the Blue Collar TV episode where Bill Engvall tells stories.
Mike's got a story to tell
He don't tell the story too well
But he's gonna tell it oh hell
It's just another story he tells
Well, here goes nothing.
When I was oh so much younger, I got my first taste of meeting famous people. There was this Country and Western Show Promoter named Harry "Hap" Peebles who put together shows across about ten states here in the middle of the country. WMBH radio station on 1450 AM was the local Country and Western station and worked with Peebles on his shows. One of the sales persons was Claude Dry and he was friends with my father. Whenever a show came ot town, Claude would call and ask my father to take tickets. If I had been good, and it was on a Friday or Saturday evening, I would be able to go and sell programs. Each one I sold for $1.00, I would receive $0.10. On a good night I might make $10.00. That's a lot for a small child in the late 60's and early 70's.
I was absolutely blessed to go to these shows. I was a fan of the music, and to see those artists I was hearing on the radio was just awesome. The artists included Tommy Cash, Johnny Western, and Tex Ritter. You young folk won't know these people, but my generation do.
I was also blessed to see Dolly Parton in one of her first shows after she joined Porter Wagoner. He was from West Plains, Missouri and we saw him on TV every week. Not long before, Porter's female counterpart for several years had been Norma Jean. She had quit Porter's show and Dolly had recently replaced her. Guess who was front and center that night? Yep, Norma Jean. So that night I got autographs from Porter, Norma Jean, and a nobody named Dolly Parton.
Others included Marty Robbins, with whom I spent a glorious two hours after the show while the roadies loaded up his equipment. We sat on stage with Marty and his son, just listening to him sing and laugh and talk about his life, including his love of racing. Did you know he once had a car named Devil Woman, after his song of the same name?.
I also spent an evening with Doolittle "Moonie" Lynn, Loretta Lynn's husband while she performed two shows on a Saturday afternoon and evening. It was cold, and there was a heavy snow outside, so there was not as many people there as there normally would have been. We spent the entire time with Moonie, close to five hours just watching Loretta sing and laugh with the audience. Afterwards, we spoke with her as she signed autographs and took pictures with every single person who desired one. What a classy lady.
I have been blessed to meet some professional athletes also. Stan the Man Musial; Former Light Heavyweight Boxing Champion of the World Archie Moore, Hall of Fame NBA star Charles Barkley. Speaking of Barkley, if you have never been close to a pro player, you might be shocked to see one up close and personal. I ran into Barkley in the airport at Houston, Texas. There was this mountain of a man strolling through the airport. Now I watched him on TV for years, and know how big he was compared to the other players. But up close - he was massive.When you hear 6'5" and 250 pounds, it may not mean much until it is right next to you. Wow!
Speaking of wow moments, a friend I had known as kids played pro football for a few years for Philadelphia. He hurt his knee and was unable to compete anymore, so he returned home here in the area. I ran into him at a softball tournament one day. We stood around talking and remembering the old days when he excused himself and went up to bat. It was slow pitch softball and he was dressed in jeans, a t-shirt and old ratty tennis shoes. He hit a sharp ground ball to the shortstop. The shortstop fielded it cleanly and looked up in shock to see my friend crossing the first base bag before he could throw the ball across the infield to get him out. When my friend came back around, I asked how fast he was. To beat out that routine play that easily, he was really fast. He replied "Oh, I can still run a 4.7 or 4.8 second 40 yard dash." Now, he was not fit enough to compete in the professional leagues anymore, yet he was that fast. Oh, and he stood 6'7" tall and weighed in a svelte 275 pounds. He had been a defensive lineman. That was when it hit me just how good those guys are we see running around the field on Sundays!
My personal claim to fame was being mistaken for Bob Segar one day in the St. Louis airport. I heard some people yelling "Bob! Hey Bob Segar!" I turned and saw some young people running after me. They thought I was rocker Bob Segar! That was pretty cool, if I do say so myself.
I have been to California, to the Mojave Desert and Hollywood Boulevard; to the sands of Death Valley and the almost spiritual woods of the great Redwood Forests. From southern Texas to northern Ontario, and Massachusetts to Montana. Florida to New Hampshire and even along the shores of the Great Lakes. I can tell you this: there is beauty to behold everywhere in this great country if we but open our eyes to see it. On the one day I spent in Death Valley, it rained. Hard. The area received more rain in that one day I was there than it sees in two or three years. There was an actual lake there that day, and I saw park rangers acting like tourists, snapping pictures left and right due to this historic rainfall.
One of the most spectacular drives I have ever been on did not revolve around scenery, although it was beautiful. It did not involve a state park, or mountain vistas; no, this drive was into New Hampshire from Massachusetts on glorious Autumn day. I took a drive around, just sightseeing. I will tell you, for anyone who loves history that area is something to see. Curving little two lane roads leading beneath ancient trees and along houses that are who knows how old. Then, suddenly, a village sign appears advising this town to be founded in 1673 or 1741 and it hits you: this town has been here for over 300 years! Where I come from, it is considered old if the town is 100 years old, with only a few reaching back to 150 years. These towns and villages and such are over twice as old as mine!
I have also been privileged to stand beside Plymouth Rock. It is amazing the feeling one gets when confronted with the location that is said to be the exact location of those brave souls who came to America for the first time to create what would become the United States of America. It is a humbling sensation, and a site all should attempt to see at least once in their lives.
While you are in the area, continue on the Freedom Trail and view the Old North Church, the Boston Commons, and Old Ironsides. Walk along the harbor and imagine the Tea being dumped into the waters below. I was able to do this as well, and came away with a new respect for our forefathers and the struggles they faced those many years ago.
I have heard the wolves howl in the north woods of Canada, and listened to the lonesome sounds of a loon calling. I have been in a boat when one of the members of our fishing party hooked an alligator on his rod and reel (couldn't land it) and in that same boat when we ran over a submerged gator on a small lake in Florida. Elsewhere I have written of the bear that came into camp on a fly in lake in Canada. We have also seen other bruins in Canada wandering around the banks of the lakes. On one trip home from a week in Canada, we ran across one of those sights that break your heart. An early morning filled with fog and a heavy dew, we traveled south from Duluth and stopped to see what people were looking at alongside the highway. It was a pair of wolves; a male that must have weighed at least 150 pounds, and a beautiful coal black female. They had evidently been running together and crossed the highway, being struck at the same instant and dying on the roadside, side by side. While I was excited to see them, it hurt in a way I did not understand at the time. Now, I do.
I have felt the fury of storms in Canada, being in a boat on a lake when 60 to 70 mile per hour winds tossed our boat around like a child's toy in a bathtub.I have watched as tornadoes formed, then destroyed my town. Driven in a motor home while winds exceeding 80 mph blasted us from the side, tossing us about with ease and causing a little uneasiness on the person driving (me). Stood knee deep in snow in the mountains of Colorado on Friday and three days later watched as the ground baked hard and dry in 70 degree temperatures.
I have driven a boat in July across moonlit waters at night at nearly 70 mph, and paddled a canoe down wild rivers in January. Soared through the heavens in a Cessna and floated along in a balloon. Flown over the woods of Arkansas in a Chinook helicopter, watching as the countryside moved beneath us through the open hatch in the belly of the craft. Driven across the Mojave at night, as I watched the sun set over the sands in a riot of color and sat in rapture at the stars circling overhead, and I have watched as the sun rose over the mountains of Montana.
Perhaps the single most wonderful sight I have seen, outside of my family daily, would be just outside of Yellowstone one cold May day. I had driven as close to the park as I could, then left my car and climbed up the side of the mountain to sit for a bit, just looking out across the valley. I looked at the ground around me, and saw tracks. Large dog-like tracks. Then it hit me: just the week before I had watched the rescue of some wolf pups from an area near Yellowstone. A local rancher had shot the male named Arnold, and the mother Natasha was found to have had some babies. This was the area they had been in when the rangers found them. Those wild, beautiful wolves had been living right here until that untimely tragedy. I sat there, sad yet happy, to be in the exact location where our country had tried to restore these magnificent animals to the wild, then someone caused a setback. But they had been here; right here; right where I was sitting. To see those tracks and know that they were still around, somewhere near was a feeling I will never have again.
I have stories, some that no one desires to listen to or read, but they are a part of my history. To think I was there at this time or that place when something I still remember happened, or someone I never thought to meet appears is still amazing to me. But the single most amazing story is one I am a part of each and every day of my life, that of being a part of my family. I treasure hugs and kisses from my wife and children; I love to sit and look at them without their knowledge, just enjoying knowing they love me and I love them. My greatest story is that of them, and our everyday struggles, blessings, and love that never ends. Be sure you take a moment today to let your favorite story characters that you love them, and give them a hug just because.